Boston is often considered one of the rowing hotspots in the United States. Perhaps not coincidentally, the heralded Head of the Charles Regatta takes place in the same city.
Temple had the opportunity to enter one boat in last year’s event. But this year, increased funding allowed the Owls to send three boats to the Charles River. In the Club Fours race, Temple’s two boats finished 11th and 15th out of 45 teams. In the Championship Eights race, the Owls struggled, finishing last out of 39 teams. Still, the team’s participation in the regatta was viewed as beneficial.
“It’s been really fun to be able to share it with that many more women, to be able to have three chances to represent Temple has been awesome,” coach Rebecca Grzybowski. “It’s been fantastic.”
Grzybowski said she has a personal attachment to this regatta. She attended the College of the Holy Cross, located 45 miles outside of Boston.
“Head of the Charles has been one of my favorite races since I was an undergrad,” Grzybowski said. “So to bring these women up here to experience something they’ve never experienced before, and just see how big rowing is in general, it’s just really fun to see their eyes open up real wide at the size and the spectacle of the event.”
Sharing the experience has been another highlight for the second-year coach.
“It’s definitely what they call it, the ‘festival of rowing,’” Grzybowski said. “It’s just a big celebration of all things rowing, so it’s just been really fun to be a part of that and be able to share with them.”
Senior captain Sarah Barber said she was amazed at the crews the Owls competed with.
“We got to race against some really class crews, and just the energy on the race course was just really different than on the Schuylkill [River],” Barber said. “It was a really great experience for everyone.”
“I’m here with my younger sister [Stephanie], who is a sophomore,” Barber added. “So I’ve been kind of talking to her about how to handle herself and to try to take notes so next year she can make it even a better experience. Just to build off of this one, because it’s been great to have been in Boston with these girls.”
One of the most important positions in rowing is the coxswain. The quarterback of the boat, sophomore Kelsey Franks, is responsible for knowing the course, calling out orders and keeping the boat in sync.
“Definitely the course [was different],” Franks said. “Last weekend it was our home course [on the Schuylkill] and there’s really no turn at all. It’s a straight shot, and this course, it’s major turns. First, you go straight, you turn a hard right and then turn hard left after that. It’s basically not only me knowing and being one step ahead of the course, but preparing the rowers as well for what’s coming up.”
Franks said the Head of the Charles is as much a social gathering as it is a regatta.
“It’s a fall race, so spring races are obviously more competitive,” Franks said. “So it’s more of a social event, everyone’s cheering for each other, everybody’s seeing what crews do. It’s not totally competitive, where everybody is like super-focused. It’s where you get to talk to other teams that maybe you wouldn’t see the rest of the year and it’s the biggest regatta we’ll go to all year. It’s really exciting.”
Grzybowski said she approached the Head of the Charles just like she would any other race.
“We approach every race sort of keeping it all in perspective,” Grzybowski said. “It’s the fall, [which] isn’t our main championship season, so it’s nice just to have such a big event to anticipate and to motivate and to use as a goal during the fall, but it’s not our main event. It leaves us with the attitude, this is where we are at with the season right now, so let’s go have a great race, and use it as a building block to catapult into the winter.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.